After a brief delay, Aqara is taking its first tentative step towards supporting the new Matter home connectivity standard with the release of a beta firmware update for its M2 hub. Aqara is first targeting M2 hubs manufactured in 2022 and sold outside of China. The company estimates it will take four to six weeks for all M2 hubs to be updated to version V4.0.0 (beta). Other Aqara hubs will receive the Matter-enabled firmware in “the following months.”
Over 40 Zigbee-based Aqara devices will be accessible via Matter by anyone that activates it (by selecting “Bind to Matter”) after receiving the firmware update on their M2 hub.
Aqara, like many other smart device makers, is choosing to bridge its Zigbee-based devices — like lights, cameras, switches, and sensors — to Matter using its existing hubs already installed in homes. The new firmware does not update individual Aqara devices to support Thread, which alongside Wi-Fi makes up the two main protocols for connecting devices to Matter networks. Aqara also has a handful of new devices coming that support Matter out of the box.
The company has released a helpful overview video tutorial that explains the update, how your smart home will function after the firmware is applied, and all the current limitations to expect as companies slowly update their smart home ecosystems to Matter in the months ahead.
Aqara notes that only Google Home and Apple Home will be able to see Aqara’s devices connected to the M2 hub after the firmware update, while other Matter apps (like Amazon Alexa and Samsung SmartThings) will work just as soon as they support the Bridge device type.
The company cautions Apple Home users against switching to Matter right now
The company cautions Apple Home users against switching to Matter right now “as Matter can not provide full HomeKit functionality” without explaining exactly what will be lost. It does say that Apple Home networks will see duplicate devices for M2 hubs connected to Matter that were previously connected to HomeKit. Aqara also says that devices connected to Apple Home via Matter may suffer from “no response” messages as they are “very sensitive to the Wi-Fi router quality and signal,” although company spokesperson Michell Li says the matter is “significantly improved” with iOS 16.3.
But it’s not all bad news for Apple smart homes. “Please also note that binding existing devices to Matter won’t require users to reset everything. Users can keep using HomeKit (suggested), and connect Aqara devices to other system(s) via Matter,” says Aqara in a statement sent to The Verge.
Google Home users with Aqara devices should fare better with Matter, so long as they have a Google Home or Nest device to use as a Matter controller, and Android device to run the Matter-ready Google Home app (Google Home on iOS does not support Matter yet).
If all that sounds messy, well, that’s because it is. We’re at the early stages of untangling multiple disparate smart home solutions in favor of one common standard. The road to Matter will be a journey, so buckle up.
Update February 4th, 2:05AM ET: Added statement from Aqara about “no response” messages.